This article has relevance in Arkansas. The San Jose newspaper has taken a deep look at on-line charter schools in California. The conclusion: They’re failing.

The big operator — the for profit K12 organization dreamed up by former Education Secretary William Bennett — also is the online charter beneficiary in Arkansas.


Launched with fanfare and promise, online schools such as K12 are compiling a spotty record nationwide, but highly motivated students with strong parental support can succeed in them. In California, however, those students make up a tiny fraction of K12’s enrollment. The result — according to an extensive review of complaints, company records, tax filings and state education data — is that children and taxpayers are being cheated as the company takes advantage of a systemic breakdown in oversight by local school districts and state bureaucrats.

At the same time, K12’s heavily marketed school model has been lucrative, helping the company rake in more than $310 million in state funding over the past 12 years, as well as enriching sponsoring school districts, which have little stake in whether the students succeed.

..“This company has shown an inordinate level of failure, yet it’s continually given lifelines by policymakers who have irresponsibly ignored what’s going on,” said Luis Huerta, a Columbia University associate professor of education and public policy who is one of the nation’s leading experts on online education.

One Arkansas difference — no money flows to local school districts from students enrolled in “virtual charters” — essentially home-schooled students for whom K12 reaps the same sort of state support that real school districts get to operate buses, schools, gyms, cafeterias, bands and all the rest.

You might remember that Johnny Key — yes, THAT Johnny Key, but then a senator carrying Walton Family Foundation water as usual — wrote special language (meaning it became law without a full vote) that took the cap off virtual charter school enrollment at 500 and moved it to 5,000 and allowed an expansion into high school. That made the operation eligible for more than $30 million a year in state taxpayer  support. Back when the state Board of Education had members who questioned charter school performance, members often remarked on lackluster performance at the virtual charter. In the recent round of school report cards, Arkansas Virtual Academy got a D for its elementary school and C for its middle and high school operations. Just for handy reference: Four of Little Rock’s seven middle schools had as good or better report grades than the Virtual Charter’s 222. 


Diane Ravitch’s summary, linked above, contains links to the ongoing San Diego series.

But think about it. Do you think Johnny Key, who provided the $30 million windfall guided to an online operation helped  by a Walton-financed charter school organization is going to crack the whip on the Virtual Academy? Key is the man who moved with alacrity to dump Baker Kurrus because he presented information damaging to charter schools to the state Board of Education. (His assertion to the contrary is simply not true. Nor is it true that charter schools are outperforming Little Rock schools.)